What is a sty?
A sty is a painful, red bump that forms on the edge of your eyelid. It may look like an acne pimple. Sties may cause discomfort, but they are not usually serious and are easy to treat. They are very common, especially in children.
What eye problems are similar to sties?
A chalazion is a firm (but less painful) bump in the middle of the eyelid. It is caused by an inflamed, blocked gland. A chalazion may also cause blurry vision. Treatment for a chalazion is similar to treatment for a sty; however, the bump may not go away for 2 to 8 weeks.
Symptoms of a sty
The main symptom is a swollen, painful, red bump on the edge of the eyelid. It usually forms on the outside of the eyelid. But sometimes it forms on the inside. You may also have the following:
- Discharge from the eye
- Tearing of the eye
- Scratchy feeling in the eye
- Crusting on the eyelid
How is a sty diagnosed?
Your family doctor can diagnose a sty by examining your eye. No special tests are needed.
Can a sty be prevented or avoided?
The best way to avoid getting sties is to practice good eye hygiene. Make sure you keep your eyes clean. Remove makeup and dirt. Throw away old eye makeup (for example, mascara should be replaced every 2 to 3 months). Do not share makeup with others. Always wash your hands before touching your eyes. If you wear contacts, wash your hands before putting them in or taking them out. Also, make sure that you disinfect your lenses correctly with a contact lens cleaning solution.
Sties can usually be treated at home. They should go away in 7 to 10 days. Don’t try any over-the-counter medicines, drops, or ointments without talking to your family doctor first.
The following are some things you can do to help your sty go away:
- Put a warm, damp compress on your eye for 5 to 10 minutes, 3 or 4 times a day. The compress should be warm but not so hot that it burns your eyelid.
- Keep the area around your eye clean.
- Avoid touching or rubbing your eye.
- Avoid wearing eye makeup or contact lenses while the sty heals.
- Never try to squeeze or pop any bumps near your eye. Doing this can spread infection.
If a sty requires medical treatment, your doctor may use antibiotics, minor surgery to drain the sty, or a steroid injection to reduce swelling. Your doctor may also treat any underlying conditions that are causing your sty or making it worse.
Living with a sty
A sty is usually a harmless condition. It may cause you some irritation, but it should go away on its own. Home treatment measures such as warm compresses can help. If a sty gets infected, you may need to take antibiotic medicine.
When should I see a doctor?
If you have any concerns, or if your sty does not go away after 10 to 14 days, talk to your family doctor. You should also call your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:
- An eyelid that is swollen shut
- Increased pain with home treatment
- Increased swelling after the first 2 to 3 days
- An eyelid that feels hot
- Thick pus or blood coming from the bump
- Blistering on your eyelid
- Fever or chills
- Vision changes
- Sties that keep coming back
Questions to ask your doctor
- What is the best treatment for me?
- Is it okay for my child to go to daycare with a sty?
- How can I stop my child from scratching or picking at a sty?
- Will the sty go away on its own?
- If the sty hurts a lot, should I take a pain reliever?
- How long will it be before the sty goes away?
- I seem to get sties a lot. Should I consider not wearing contact lenses?
Copyright © American Academy of Family Physicians
This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.